One of the reasons the Religious Right has power so disproportionate to its numbers is because its targets — especially politicians — often cede it this destructive power. Case in point yesterday: One insignificant Christian Broadcasting Network blogger nearly brought the Democratic National Convention to its knees by a snarky analysis claiming “God” was deleted from the DNC platform. Fox TV immediately picked up the accusation and of course beat it like a dead horse. Voila — by day’s end, President Barack Obama reportedly personally intervened to ensure “God’s” return to the Democratic Party platform.
Of course the president did. Why should the president, or any politician or political party, expend precious political capital by letting themselves be labeled as “godless” if they can help it? Rather than risk political fallout, the Democrats likewise capitulated to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, after he asked to give a benediction at the DNC, even though Dolan’s on a crusade against Obama’s contraceptive mandate. Dolan (promiscuously?) performed the same rite last week before the RNC. It seems neither party can plan a convention without the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops crashing their party!
Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student infamously silenced by a congressional committee when she tried to testify about the need for the administration’s contraceptive mandate, is silent no more. She delivered a great zinger about those celibate bishops during her speech last night before the DNC, warning of “an America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it.”
The “godless” line in question was changed yesterday from inclusionary to exclusionary, specifically back to the 2008 language saying “we need a government that stands up for the hopes, values and interests of working people and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential (italics added).” The DNC platform already clearly contained an affirming section on faith. The representation of religiosity is in full bloom at the DNC, from opening invocations to closing benedictions, cameos by cute young ministers, and the near-ubiquitous “God Bless America” conclusions to speeches. (I might cynically speculate that the phrase must be part of the template in the teleprompters, were it not for the fact that politicians are so happy to wear religion on their sleeves that they probably don’t require such coaching.)
Yet . . . this is the same party that is now openly embracing marriage equality (whose opposition is universally religious in nature). A mini-revolution has taken place. Speaker after speaker at the DNC worked into their talks a reference to Americans being “able to marry whomever they love.” Supporting gay marriage was considered a political kiss of death for a presidential candidate . . . until suddenly it wasn’t. Maybe someday not too far away, we’ll increasingly hear public officials praise Americans for being able to believe or disbelieve as they like.
We got a small taste of such basic social acceptance in Rep. Jared Polis’ speech on Tuesday, when he added:
“. . . ladies and gentlemen, now is our chance to tell the dividers no, tell the special interests and cynical Washington insiders no, tell the lobbyists and PACs no, and tell our fellow countrymen and women, gay and straight, Christians, Jews, Mormons, Muslims and nonbelievers, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian, east and west, north and south; it is time to tell them yes, together we are stronger, together we are better, together we are America.”
We seculars are 19% of the population. We have a voice. We have a vote. We have a vital message: Freedom depends on keeping religious dogma out of government. Freethought is not just respectable, but laudable. We who value the use of reason in forming our opinions about religion will not be marginalized as kooks or zanies or as an insignificant minority to be batted away like pesky flies. We’re of the “tribe” of Voltaire, Wollstonecraft, Jefferson, Paine, Mills, Stanton, Darwin, DuBois, Einstein, Sanger, Sagan.
Yes, it’s wrong and frustrating that in a nation predicated on a godless Constitution, a political party must inject “god” into its platform to avoid a “gotcha” moment. But I’m hopeful someday soon that gratuitous political piety will once again be seen as tasteless pandering, and that public dissing of freethinkers and atheists will be seen as just plain bad manners. And then the intent of our founders will be honored — that there shall be no religious test for public office, or good citizenship.
Meanwhile, FFRF has placed the antidote to all this theo-political glossolalia — this Matthew-Mark-Luke-Johnorrhea — two billboards up now in Charlotte wisely advising: “God fixation won’t fix this nation.”
P.S. In response to the jingoistic get-out-the-vote campaigns of theocratic organizations, FFRF has created its own “get out the secular vote” webpage we hope you’ll share (particularly with college students): http://ffrf.org/get-involved/secular-vote/.